Norwich man writes proposal to his girlfriend in the sand at Cromer beach

They say faint heart never won fair lady.

And Andrew Barkell certainly made his intentions clear when he proposed to girlfriend Karen Willis – in four-foot-high letters carved into the beach at Cromer.

What the 31-year-old hadn't bargained on was the crowd of onlookers witnessing the couple's special moment when he dropped to one knee as his partner of five-and-a-half years read the proposal.

Fortunately for him, after an agonising wait, she said yes.

'It was just gobsmacking. I didn't know what to do,' said Miss Willis, 29, a personal assistant. 'I'm amazed that he managed to keep it a secret from me until then.

'When I read the message, my heart was pounding – it was just so overwhelming.

'It wasn't until people started shouting 'What did she say?' that I realised I hadn't said anything. Then I said: 'Well, yes'.'

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After a round of applause from their audience, the couple continued their walk, finishing with a celebratory fish and chips on the seafront.

Despite the proposal coming as a bolt from the blue, Miss Willis said her future husband had judged the moment to perfection.

'I'm quite a romantic, and I had thought about marriage, but we got our first house last year and I thought all that would be on hold for a while.

'I thought he did really well with the way he proposed – he couldn't have done it better. I was impressed.'

Mr Barkell, a retail manager in Norwich, first had the idea of proposing on the beach at Cromer shortly before Christmas, when he began to think of proposing, as it was a place with happy memories for the couple, who live in Proctor Road, Old Catton, in Norwich.

He said: 'I wanted to do it somewhere that was very special to us, and we used to go to Cromer a lot when we first started going out. It's somewhere we often go to take walks at the weekends.'

After settling on the location, he enlisted friends Andrew Smith and Simon Wake to assist.

They carved out the message in the sand, and stood guard over it until the big moment.

'It took quite a lot of organising, and I was terrified for a while that something was going to go wrong. But we had it planned with military precision, and the guys did a great job.

'It wasn't until the morning that I felt the nerves. It was a mix of anxiety and excitement, but when I saw the weather I knew that was the day. There wasn't really a Plan B.

'When it came down to it, I got the three-letter answer I was looking for rather than the two-letter answer!'

Miss Willis submitted a picture of her boyfriend's beach proposal on our iwitness24 website.

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